Metaphysics Without Ontology: Hegel, Schelling and Marx on Reason's Accountability Gap Open Access

Quinonez, Omar (Spring 2021)

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This dissertation argues for an approach to metaphysics called “metaphysics without ontology.” Broadly put, that the study of the “world” has no fixed doctrine of what exists or “ontology.” It focuses on three philosophers, G. W. F. Hegel, F. W. J. Schelling, and Karl Marx. It argues they advanced an innovative way of doing metaphysics: we do not need to presume the world has a logic in order to talk about what is real and what is not. 

For the “idealism” of Hegel and Schelling, reason does not know the world by contemplating its basic structure. Rather, it comes to know what exists by studying the assumptions it itself operates under. For Hegel and Schelling reason is fundamentally creative and always conceives what exists under some condition. The science of metaphysics thus does not simply contemplate what is real but makes statements about some world it helped conceive. Hegel and Schelling understand this approach to be the only way we can say anything meaningful about the world non-dogmatically. Metaphysics needs to accept what I call the “accountability gap:” for some doctrine of existence to count as real or objective it does not need to assume the world has one single logic it is then able to account for.

Marx’s “materialism” is also defined by the idea that metaphysics has no ontology. Marx rejects “metaphysics” because it fixates in thought what is really always in flux. For Marx, whether it is his early view that reality is “practical” not theoretical, or his later position that reason has an untold connection to nature, the point is the same: reality is not a fixed “thing” whose boundaries thinking can spell out. Marx explains what reason does by situating it within the natural world as subject to degradation and precarity; what I call “natural decay.” Metaphysics has no ontology because the natural world is subject to a process of entropy out of which reason and human labor are able to generate limited order.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Metaphysics Without Ontology in Early Schelling and Hegel 11

Hegel's Theory of the Accountability Gap 49

Schelling on Metaphysics as Storytelling 90

Marx's Materialism as Metaphysics Without Ontology 130

Conclusion 183

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